Homeless Man Charged in Adas Israel Synagogue Fire

Charges do not include arson, still no evidence of it being a hate crime.

DULUTH, Minn.- A 36–year–old Duluth homeless man, is now charged with starting the fire that destroyed the historic Adas Israel Synagogue in downtown Duluth one week ago.

The charges don’t involve arson as Duluth Police recommended.

Matthew Amiot had his first court appearance on Monday, charged with one count of negligent fires, and one count of negligent fires resulting in someone suffering bodily injury.

So far, the Police Chief said there is still no evidence pointing to the fire being a hate crime.

According to the criminal complaint, on that Monday September 9th Amiot was seen walking behind the synagogue around 2am.

Behind the building is a small religious structure called a sukkah, where court documents said Amiot took a lighter and lit a variety of combustible materials on fire.

Just a few minutes later Amiot was seen walking away from the synagogue, looking back at the flickering flames.

After the fire grew and the building began to collapse, Fire Captain Ben Gasner was hit with falling debris and knocked unconscious. He was taken to a hospital and treated to a concussion.

After his arrest, Amiot admitted to authorities he started the fire outside of the synagogue.

He said he tried to spit on the fire outside of the synagogue and when that was unsuccessful, he walked away.

His public defender said in court he now denies these allegations, and claims Amiot was “in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

While official numbers aren’t in yet, the value of the synagogue is at least $117,000 according to county records, and the value of the religious artifacts is at least $250,000.

Amiot’s bail is set at $20,000. If convicted of the felony count, he could face up to 3 years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine.

Amiot’s next appearance is October 8th.

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